June 4, 2014 at 7:11 AM ET
The Samworth family of Germantown, Ohio was already riding high last month when they arrived at a Dayton Dragons baseball game — they had free tickets, and they knew it would be a blast. What they didn’t realize was that a friendly guy in a dragon mascot costume was about to make their day unforgettable.
Matt and Cheri Samworth were walking outside the stadium with their 7-year-old son Hunter on May 24 when they spotted the team’s mascots nearby. Hunter, who has cochlear implants but is nonverbal, asked his parents through sign language if he could go talk to the dragon, known as Heater.
“My wife told him in sign, ‘Tell Heater it’s nice to meet you,’” Matt Samworth told TODAY.com. “So he walks up to Heater and signs that to him, and next thing you know, Heater signs back and just starts signing to him.”
Hunter’s dad, who says he's never seen anything like the moment his son shared with the mascot, managed to catch a good chunk of the encounter in a video that he later posted to YouTube.
“The smile on his face was ear to ear,” Matt remembers. “I couldn’t even speak. I was just in awe. I was like, this is something that he’s going to remember for the rest of his life."
As it turned out, the meeting was a happy coincidence — the mascot's escort is a sign language interpreter, and the man inside the mascot suit is currently in school, training to be an interpreter as well.
When the team discovered the touching video on YouTube and shared it, it quickly went viral, leading to a response that Matt calls "just incredible."
“My wife said it the best: He had this look of, ‘He gets me. He understands me. He speaks my language,’" Matt says of how his son felt talking to the mascot. "It was a great feeling.”